While the nation’s primary healthcare focus remains on the COVID-19 pandemic as we move through the third year of its disruptive effects and the death toll approaches 1 million, other important dynamics are playing out with respect to the utilization of health services, the use of prescription medicines, and the associated spending levels, including patient out-of-pocket costs. Understanding these elements of the health system and how they may evolve over the next five years remains critical to decision-makers and stakeholders – including patients.
This annual trend report - The Use of Medicines in the U.S. 2022 – is intended to provide a grounding in relevant information across a range of issues with both short- and long-term implications. It includes the Health Services Utilization Index, which tracks a range of healthcare activities that affect the use of medicines.
Spending and growth drivers reflect the significant differences in levels of spending by stakeholders as discounts and rebates distort these trends even as the most impactful driver has been the amount spent on COVID-19 vaccines and therapeutics. An overview of patient out-of-pocket costs shows that while most patients’ costs are falling, a small proportion have high costs which impact their use of medicines with implications for their health outcomes.
The outlook for the years ahead includes the expected end of the pandemic as well as significant shifts in drivers of usage and spending overall and in key therapy areas.
- Spending on U.S. medicines rose 12% in 2021 due primarily to COVID-19 vaccines and therapies
- Despite an increase in overall spending, costs per prescription on average are flat or slightly declining
- Prescription drug use reached a record 194Bn daily doses in 2021 as new prescription starts for both chronic and acute care recovered from the slowdown recorded in 2020
- Health services utilization returned to pre-pandemic levels by the end of 2021 but has yet to make up for the pandemic-induced backlog in missed patient visits, screenings and diagnostics, elective procedures, and new prescription starts
- Spending on medicines is expected to return to pre-pandemic growth trend lines by 2023